Beginner's Guide to Black scifi/fantasy/horror part ii
Updated: Jan 23
every time I see a list of black scifi & Fantasy "you should be reading" it's always the same three or four names. there are so many more great black authors than that ....
A while back, I created the first beginner's guide to black science fiction & fantasy in answer to two realities. First, I kept hearing people say they wanted to read scifi & fantasy by black authors but they didn't know where to find any. Huh? Yeah, that was troubling and puzzling to me. Are you even looking? That's what I thought to myself. Because we are out here in these streets, lol. We are legion. All you have to do is look. The second thing I kept seeing were these "lists" of "must-read" scifi & fantasy with the same three or four names on them. It was like that Hollywood thing where they seem to only have room for one black actor - you know, Denzel is in every movie where they need a black actor, and then it's Don Cheadle, and then Chadwick Boseman ... you get the picture. It's as if the broader culture doesn't want to make any assessment beyond the superficial. Now, don't get me wrong, the three black authors you always hear about are worthy of your attention. My assertion is that the bench of black authors is sooooooooo much broader and deeper than that. Sure, you should read N. K. Jemison, definitely, but you should also read Nicole Kurtz, and Zig Zag Claybourne, and Milton J. Davis, etc, etc. That's my point. So, here you go. This is the second list of black authors in speculative fiction you should check out. It's not an exhaustive list, it's a beginner's guide. The first one can also be found on this blog in another post so be sure to check that one out too. I hope you take advantage of the time I've spent curating this list. Go support these authors. Buy the books, read the books, WRITE REVIEWS FOR THE BOOKS, and tell your friends about them.
You can purchase them here: https://bookshop.org/lists/my-choices
The link will take you to my curated list over on Bookshop. The books listed on both my beginner's guides have been put together in my list over on Bookshop so you can find them and purchase them easily. Why bookshop? Bookshop is a site dedicated to offering us an alternative to Amazon. The added bonus is that to-date bookshop has donated over 11 million dollars to local and independent bookstores. Yes, you read that right. A percentage of every sale goes to a fund that is equally divided among the local and independent bookstores that sign up with Bookshop. It doesn't cost them anything and Bookshop doesn't ask them for anything. It was founded because of the devastation Amazon was causing among brick and mortar bookstores as more and more people chose to buy online rather than stopping in at their local bookstore. So, not only will you find some new black authors to support but you'll also be supporting local and indie bookstores. You can't beat that.
So, without further ado, here's the newest beginner's guide to black science fiction & fantasy (and this time I've added a few horror titles). Enjoy!
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
In this "impressive debut" from award-winning speculative fiction author Nalo Hopkinson, a young woman must solve the tragic mystery surrounding her family and bargain with the gods to save her city and herself. (The Washington Post)
The rich and privileged have fled the city, barricaded it behind roadblocks, and left it to crumble. The inner city has had to rediscover old ways -- farming, barter, herb lore. But now the monied need a harvest of bodies, and so they prey upon the helpless of the streets. With nowhere to turn, a young woman must open herself to ancient truths, eternal powers, and the tragic mystery surrounding her mother and grandmother. She must bargain with gods, and give birth to new legends.
A Spectral Hue by Craig Laurance Gidney
For generations, the marsh-surrounded town of Shimmer, Maryland has played host to a loose movement of African-American artists, all working in different media, but all utilizing the same haunting color. Landscape paintings, trompe l'oeil quilts, decorated dolls, mixed-media assemblages, and more, all featuring the same peculiar hue, a shifting pigment somewhere between purple and pink, the color of the saltmarsh orchid, a rare and indigenous flower.
Graduate student Xavier Wentworth has been drawn to Shimmer, hoping to study the work of artists like quilter Hazel Whitby and landscape painter Shadrach Grayson in detail, having experienced something akin to an epiphany when viewing a Hazel Whitby tapestry as a child. Xavier will find that others, too, have been drawn to Shimmer, called by something more than art, something in the marsh itself, a mysterious, spectral hue.
From Lambda Literary Award-nominated author Craig Laurance Gidney (Sea, Swallow Me & Other Stories, Skin Deep Magic) comes A Spectral Hue, a novel of art, obsession, and the ghosts that haunt us all.
Claiming T-Mo by Eugen Bacon
In this lush interplanetary tale, Novic is an immortal Sayneth priest who flouts the conventions of a matriarchal society by choosing a name for his child. This act initiates chaos that splits the boy in two, unleashing a Jekyll-and-Hyde child upon the universe. Named T-Mo by his mother and Odysseus by his father, the story spans the boy’s lifetime — from his early years with his mother Silhouette on planet Grovea to his travels to Earth where he meets and marries Salem, and together they bear a hybrid named Myra. The story unfolds through the eyes of these three distinctive women: Silhouette, Salem and Myra. As they confront their fears and navigate the treacherous paths to love and accept T-Mo/Odysseus and themselves, the darkness in Odysseus urges them to unbearable choices that threaten their very existence.
Octavia's Brood edited by Adrienne Maree Brown and Walidah Imarisha
Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing speculative fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown have brought twenty of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The visionary tales of Octavia’s Brood span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to inject a healthy dose of imagination and innovation into our political practice and to try on new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and all the selves and worlds that could be. The collection is rounded off with essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and a preface by Sheree Renée Thomas.
The Last Seer by Cerece Rennie Murphy
The Seers face their greatest challenge in the final chapter of the Order of the Seers trilogy... When the fall of one nemesis unleashes an even greater danger into the world, Lilli, Joel and the Lost Seers must stand against a new enemy with the means and the will to destroy all of mankind, starting with those they hold most dear. As the Seers mobilize to confront this new evil, the Guild tries desperately to uphold the crumbling world order on which it depends. When their attempts to manage the crisis fail, the members of the Guild are forced to place themselves at the mercy of an unlikely ally. But the Guild isn't the only one interested in maintaining control. An agreement made in secret threatens to destroy any hope of a peaceful alliance before it can be made and as the betrayals unfold, no one is safe against a power that will stop at nothing to get what it wants. To defeat this threat and ensure the survival of the human race, the Seers must push the boundaries of their abilities beyond any limits they have known and risk crossing the line between life and death. How far would you go to protect what matters most?
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler
This acclaimed post-apocalyptic novel of hope and terror from an award-winning author "pairs well with 1984 or The Handmaid's Tale" and includes a foreword by N. K. Jemisin (John Green, New York Times).
When global climate change and economic crises lead to social chaos in the early 2020s, California becomes full of dangers, from pervasive water shortage to masses of vagabonds who will do anything to live to see another day. Fifteen-year-old Lauren Olamina lives inside a gated community with her preacher father, family, and neighbors, sheltered from the surrounding anarchy. In a society where any vulnerability is a risk, she suffers from hyperempathy, a debilitating sensitivity to others' emotions.
Precocious and clear-eyed, Lauren must make her voice heard in order to protect her loved ones from the imminent disasters her small community stubbornly ignores. But what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: the birth of a new faith . . . and a startling vision of human destiny.
All The Dead Men by Errick Nunnally
The plot was broken, but something more sinister has taken its place: a vampire church built around the image of a woman who seems strangely familiar to Alexander. These zealots are hellbent on restoring what they believe the status quo to be, one of vampire over human, and Alexander wants nothing to do with it. Until a child—one he’d rescued decades ago, now an adult—turns up in a pornographic video made by a film crew that has been slaughtered. His adopted daughter, the vampire Ana, seems to be missing. At wit's end, Alexander has few allies. With Majispin in hiding, the pack decimated, and only a few willing to both hate and help him, Alexander must confront The Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Death and deal with the unexpected threat of Ana’s grandsire, an old and powerful vampire who has consumed his own soul. The monster wants nothing more than to possess the only love Alexander has left in the world.
Book 2 in the Alexander Smith series.
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
Two sisters are torn apart by war and must fight their way back to each other in a futuristic, Black Panther-inspired Nigeria.
The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.
In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.
Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.
And they're willing to fight an entire war to get there.
Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron
In this highly anticipated contemporary fantasy, twelve-year-old Maya’s search for her missing father puts her at the center of a battle between our world, the Orishas, and the mysterious and sinister Dark world. Perfect for fans of Aru Shah and the End of Time and The Serpent’s Secret.
Twelve-year-old Maya is the only one in her South Side Chicago neighborhood who witnesses weird occurrences like werehyenas stalking the streets at night and a scary man made of shadows plaguing her dreams. Her friends try to find an explanation—perhaps a ghost uprising or a lunchroom experiment gone awry. But to Maya, it sounds like something from one of Papa’s stories or her favorite comics.
When Papa goes missing, Maya is thrust into a world both strange and familiar as she uncovers the truth. Her father is the guardian of the veil between our world and the Dark—where an army led by the Lord of Shadows, the man from Maya’s nightmares, awaits. Maya herself is a godling, half orisha and half human, and her neighborhood is a safe haven. But now that the veil is failing, the Lord of Shadows is determined to destroy the human world and it’s up to Maya to stop him. She just hopes she can do it in time to attend Comic-Con before summer’s over.
A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown
For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts his younger sister, Nadia, as payment to enter the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.
But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.
When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a heart-pounding course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?
Buffalo Soldier by Maurice Broaddus
Having stumbled onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, finds himself caught between warring religious and political factions, all vying for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari.
Wanting the boy to have a chance to live a free life, Desmond assumes responsibility for him and they flee. But a dogged enemy agent remains ever on their heels, desperate to obtain the secrets held within Lij for her employer alone.
Assassins, intrigue, and steammen stand between Desmond and Lij as they search for a place to call home in a North America that could have been.
Buffalo Soldier is a steampunk adventure from Maurice Broaddus.
When Night Falls by Gerald L. Coleman
When Night Falls is an epic fantasy adventure that feels like Black Panther meets The Wheel Of Time.
New York Times Bestselling Author, Andrew Hartley calls it "Vast and thoroughly realized. Rich and sweeping: a true epic!"
We rarely consider the reputation of our age. An ordinary one, for most of us, would suffice. You might be an Empress too concerned with the affairs of State, a soldier focused on your duty, a former rascal trying to find redemption, or even a great warrior too busy with your command to know that there are whispers being spoken in late-night taverns. But what happens when your ordinary age stops being so ordinary? What happens when dark, twisted things step out of the mists of legend to walk the world again? Strange, black ships have been spotted far out at sea. People are disappearing from towns without a trace. Cordovan, a member of the Watchmen of Alexandria, knows something is wrong, as he races toward the capital, hoping he will make it in time. Far to the north, two members of the ancient order of the Ki'gadi, fear the darkness may already be here. While the rest of the world carries on, unaware of the danger, they search for the place where the darkness is taking root. Heroes will be needed to face what is coming. Thankfully, Alexandria is home to one. His name is Bantu, the Commander-General of the Peoples Company. And he will be needed, when night falls.
A Plague of Shadows by Gerald L. Coleman
A Plague Of Shadows is reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings meets Black Panther.
ALion That Walks has emerged in Kal'ada'abassa for the first time in an age. While some rejoice, others find his arrival disturbing. Far out on the Macca Deep, Basil chases down black ships as chaos erupts on the high seas. Onya Onoto, makes her way to the ancient city of Saladon, wondering what a once in a lifetime meeting of the Compact will bring. The Watchman, Cordovan, looks for a way into the Hallowed Place of Horrors in the hopes that Mino din' Darksbane still lives, even as their apprentices race headlong toward Palladawn carrying the most important message in the last three thousand years. From Al'akaz to Mees, a rising darkness reaches out from the shadows, spreading the tendrils of its influence like a pestilence across the Twelve Nations. Though these soldiers of the Light are spread across the known world, they are all faced with the same onslaught of a plague they cannot escape - a plague of shadows.
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.
So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world fifty years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.
Alongside her Ministry colleagues and a familiar person from her past, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city―or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna
Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.
But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.
Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire's greatest threat.
Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she's ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.
An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She's used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remains of her world.
Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot--if she's willing to sow the seeds of civil war.
Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire edited by Nicole Givens Kurtz
Mocha Memoirs Press is proud to present SLAY: Stories of the Vampire Noire - a revolutionary anthology celebrating vampires of the African Diaspora. SLAY is a groundbreaking unique collection and will be a must-have for vampire lovers all over the world. SLAY aims to be the first anthology of its kind. Few creatures in contemporary horror are as compelling as the vampire, who manages to captivate us in a simultaneous state of fear and desire. Drawing from a variety of cultural and mythological backgrounds, SLAY dares to imagine a world of horror and wonder where Black protagonists take center stage - as vampires, as hunters, as heroes. From immortal African deities to resistance fighters; matriarchal vampire broods to monster hunting fathers; coming of age stories to end of life stories, SLAY is a groundbreaking Afrocentric vampire anthology celebrating the rich cultural heritage of the African Diaspora.
Featuring anchor stories by award winning authors Sheree Renee Thomas, Craig L. Gidney, Milton Davis, Jessica Cage, Michele Tracy Berger, Alicia McCalla, Jeff Carroll, and Steven Van Patten.
Additional Contributing Authors: Penelope Flynn, Lynette Hoag, Steve Van Samson, Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald, Balogun Ojetade, Valjeanne Jeffers, Samantha Bryant, Vonnie Winslow Crist, Miranda J. Riley, K.R.S. McEntire, Alledria Hurt, Kai Leakes, John Linwood Grant, Sumiko Saulson, Dicey Grenor, L. Marie Wood, LH Moore, Delizhia D. Jenkins, Colin Cloud Dance, and V.G. Harrison.
Cyberfunk! edited by Milton J. Davis
What is Cyberfunk? It is a vision of the future with an Afrocentric flavor. It is the Singularity without the Eurocentric foundation. It is Bladerunner with sunlight, Neuromancer with melanin, cybernetics with rhythm. The word ‘punk’ when used in literary circles signifies a rebellion against conventional concepts and conventions. For us, funk serves a similar purpose. It indicates the infusion of African/African Diaspora inclusion into the storytelling, bringing to the forefront our characters and our unique concepts. The word funk also expands the interpretation. Funk is not only doom and gloom, it is light and joy, and it envisions a future of inclusion and equality.
With stories by Donovan Hall, Ronald Jones, Eugen Bacon, John Jennings, Kyoko M, Balogun Ojetade, Jarla Tangh, Minister Faust, Gerald L. Coleman, Zig Zag Clabourne, Hannibal Tabu, K. Ceres Wright, Napoleon Wells, T.C. Morgan, Carole McDonnell, Ashleigh Davenport, Violette L. Meier, Milton J. Davis, and Nicole Smith
Available February 28, 2021
Nyumbani Tales by Charles R. Saunders
Charles Saunders is the creator of the first Black Sword and Sorcery hero Imaro and founder of the sub-genre of Sword and Soul. In Nyumbani Tales, Charles has gathered previously published stories that expand the world of Nyumbani beyond the exciting exploits of his hero, filling in the details of this unique world with the triumphs, failures, loves and losses of the people that inhabit its amazing borders. This is vintage Sword and Sorcery and a must read for all fans of the genre.
Afro Puffs are the Antennae of the Universe by Zig Zag Claybourne
Book 2 in The Brothers Jetstream universe
One day you'll be interviewed, her subconscious riffed, about what it's like being Desiree Quicho, and you'll try to be this massively erudite Guatemalan Queen of philosophy and measured evaluation, except that won't feel right. Por ejemplo, you've successfully infiltrated a moon base under disguise, stolen top-secret machinery, went back to retrieve an errant crew member who provided the needed distraction for you to load said equipment on board your shuttle, and now find yourself wholly unable to wax philosophical about one person's role in assuring a decent, just world for all, because, in reality, saving the world involves a shitload of footwork.
As in running...
No one has time for your BS...but Captain Desiree Quicho and her crew of utter badasses surely don't. Got a universe to save. Again. Commandeer one piece of out-of-this-world tech and suddenly you have an evil billionaire and a corporate queenpin on your ass, factions scrabbling at the power grab to end all power grabs, and an ultimate AI bent on a rampage of healing.
All a captain wanted was a little chill time, a few tunes, and quality barbecue.
Woe to those blocking her groove.
Four women; One machine goddess; a Hellbilly, Saharan elves, the baddest Pacific Octopus this side of Atlantis... and Humanity's balance tilting toward its biggest unknown future yet.
Ascension by Minister Faust
When Taharqa "Harq" Douglass injures his eye in a freak accident, he discovers that his bizarre immigrant doctor friend Thago is more than a mere muckle-mouthed fish-out-of-water, but an interplanetary "Warmunk" investigating a cosmic mystery and fighting a war across this solar system.
Learning that he possesses of the visionary capacity of chronosis, Harq finds himself drafted into Thago's mission to rescue a princess, free an enslaved boy, and transform an age-old conflict that could claim millions of lives. Fighting against fanatics and sheltering inside the doomed Soviet space station Mir, Harq faces the starkest stakes of his life: evolve or die.
Waso: Gathering Wind by Hannibal Tabu
“We endure.” ~ Waso’s Proverb
Since the events of Dusu: Path of the Ancient and Waso: Will to Power, the Omdar of the Gathering Wind has grown as a man and a chief. Through cunning and a courage often bordering on rage, Waso and his tribe have conquered a Selvanu (Wood Elf) clan, thus gaining new allies but renewing old hatreds. When his beloved Uun-Sil is captured, Waso’s wrath will take him on a path not even the shaman herself could have predicted.
Tristan Strong Punches a hole in the sky by Kwame Mbalia
Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he's going to spend on his grandparents' farm in Alabama, where he's being sent to heal from the tragedy.
But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie's notebook. Tristan chases after it--is that a doll?--and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature's hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world.
Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price.
Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?
COG by K. Ceres Wright
The Ryder family is at the top of the corporate elite. Father Geren Ryder heads up a global wireless hologram company with his son, Wills Ryder, a capable second, while daughter, Nicholle, is curator at an art museum. But when a dark stranger shows up, it sets off a chain reaction that puts Geren into a mysterious coma while Wills disappears with $50 billion from the family business. Worse, Geren's will specifies that he be taken off life support after five days. Just as Nicholle is trying to pick up the pieces, she becomes the target of an assassin and has to go on the run. With only a few days to save her father and keep the company from going under, Nicholle reaches back into the darkest part of her history, to the only person who could possibly help her. But the price is steep. Once she goes back, can she escape her past a second time?
The Ballad of Black tom by Victor Lavalle
People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn't there.
Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father's head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.
A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?